I’ve been in Taiwan for eight months, and in that time I have gone from depressed, bored and hopeless to happy, motivated and optimistic. That change did not happen overnight, I still have many ways in which I can improve myself, and of course not every day is
The point is my outlook on life has changed. My attitude has changed. I’ve started my own blog, and I work on it a little bit every day. I exercise for 30 minutes each morning. I am learning a new language. I feel energized.
I’ve thought a lot about what has precipitated these changes, and I’ve put together a list of reasons why I think anyone who makes the work-abroad leap will see real, substantive, and positive changes in their lives.
1. Adapting to (not just experiencing) a new culture.
Everyone loves to travel. Everyone loves to “experience different cultures”, but experiencing a different culture and adapting to a different culture are two vastly different things. It’s impossible to explain the strain the adaptation process puts on your mind and body. This phenomenon is commonly known as Culture Shock, and I can assure you it will be one of your greatest challenges.
That being said, humans are skilled adaptors, and the more you practice a skill, the better you will get at it. Learning to adapt to a new culture has put me on a more even keel. I am better able to adapt to life’s daily stresses. If a challenge or barrier comes my way, I feel more confident in my ability to overcome it.
“I am better able to adapt to life’s daily stresses. If a challenge or barrier comes my way, I feel more confident in my ability to overcome it.”
I spend less time thinking, “woe is me!” and more time thinking, “Let’s handle it and move on.”
If you are reading this thinking, “Oh gosh there is no way I could do that! I would point you to my last blog post about how much I have failed in life.
My point is: if I can do it, you can do it.
2. Learning a New Language
If this isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. The latest research shows that bilingualism can improve your attention, your ability to multitask, memory, problem solving skills, and there is even some research showing it can stave off dementia.
While my Mandarin Chinese isn’t progressing quite as quickly as I had hoped, it has certainly given me a fresh perspective on my native language as well as Han Chinese culture.
“For example, did you know there is no single word for “brother” (or sister, uncle, etc) in Mandarin? When it comes to family, Mandarin Chinese forces you to acknowledge family hierarchy. You can’t simply say, “he is my brother”, you have to say, “he is my older/younger brother.”
Also, family names come first in Chinese. My name in Chinese would actually be Cassady Gabriel. What does that tell you about Han Chinese culture!?
3. Gaining a global perspective on world events
When I moved here I quickly discovered that when I went to school, we were largely taught about the world as it pertains to America and western culture in general. We learned very little about Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
“Living abroad, you will absorb far more history and politics than you even realize, and it will give you a more well-rounded worldview.”
Living abroad, you will absorb far more history and politics than you even realize, and it will give you a more well-rounded worldview. Living and working with people of a different country and culture will help you break down that subconscious barrier that separates “us” and “them”. Sure you will find many cultural differences, but over time you will come to a visceral realization that we are all much more the same than we are different.
4. Building a global network of friends and colleagues
When we started planning our trip here, we figured we would be meeting new friends from Taiwan. What we didn’t anticipate was the plethora of new folks we would meet hailing from all corners of the globe.
“Meeting and interacting with such diversity will absolutely enrich your personal life…You may meet someone who can help you land your dream job. You might even fall in love.”
South Africa, the Philippines, The UK, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Russia, Switzerland. The list goes on and on! There are thousands of expats from all over the world living and working abroad, and they each bring with them a unique perspective on the world (see #3).
Meeting and interacting with such diversity will absolutely enrich your personal life, and who knows, you may meet someone who can help you land your dream job. You might even fall in love. And that, as they say in South Africa, is lekker!
Whether it’s meeting new people, learning a new language, or just proving to yourself that you can do it, living and working abroad is guaranteed to change your life and make you a better person. I am still learning and growing every day here. This experience has profoundly changed me for the better.
And if you need some help getting started, check out our post on how you can get started Teaching English abroad in Asia.
So, what are you waiting for? Go get started! I promise you will not regret it.